A TRADITIONAL memorial for a Russian princess drew the attention of both the community and the federation’s embassy.
A service known as panikhida was held at Catherine Yourievsky’s newly restored grave in the churchyard of St Peter’s church in Northney, Hayling Island.
The daughter of Tsar Alexander II lived on the island before she died in 1959, and her funeral was attended by a mere six people.
Around 30 people from Portsmouth’s Russian orthodox parish, St Peter’s parish and the surrounding community gathered to pay their respects.
Russian parish member John Newbery led the clean-up of the princess’s grave.
He said: ‘I was touched by the mix of people attending from different parts of the world. The panikhida somehow became part of the tranquil landscape in which it was being celebrated.
‘Today was a perfect day to remember our heritage and a Princess who was far from home but found peace in a beautiful part of England.’
John had arranged for Alexander Novikov, first secretary of the Russian embassy, to attend the panikhida, but little did he know that he would receive an accolade for his efforts.
He and Russ Woolnough, St Peter’s churchwarden, were presented with a personal letter of recognition from the ambassador by Mr Novikov.
John said: ‘It was totally unexpected, I’m just pleased that we were able to help.’
Dr Julia Plikausta from the Russian Heritage Committee of the UK also laid flowers at the princess’s headstone.
Mr Novikov says that panikhida ceremonies ‘are of special importance’ to the embassy.
He said: ‘Keeping the memory of distinguished compatriots, like members of the imperial family who lived abroad – sometimes less than voluntary – is part of keeping the unbiased history of our country.
‘It is also symbolic that a century after the revolution of 1917 we remember those who became one of its many victims and refugees, thus finally overcoming this great schism in Russian society, its once irredeemable political division in the Whites and the Reds. Now we see them all as sons and daughters of their country, part of its history and part of its heritage.’